Last night Elli (3 years old) was refusing to go to sleep. It was her first time having a friend sleep over and getting the two girls to actually lie down and stop wandering out, turning the lights on, giggling, etc. was proving to be a challenge. I had finally shut off the lights and got them lying down and was under the impression they were going to go to sleep when Elli wandered into my bedroom and started looking at my computer. We had the following conversation:
Sky: Elli, go to sleep. It is very late and you need your rest.
Elli: I have to wash my hands.
Sky: No you don't, turn around and get back to your bedroom.
Elli: No, my hands are dirty, I need to wash them. (Licks her hand) See, my hand has germs! I have to wash my hand!
Sky: No you don't. (Picks up Elli and carts her to her room) Go to bed and stay there, your hands are fine.
Elli: No no no I need to wash my hands they are dirty and have GERMS!
Sky: (Closes the door and holds it) Go to sleep, now.
Elli: My hands have germs! I licked them! (Furious licking sounds come through the door) I need to wash my hands! (Sound of spitting comes through the door) I spit on my hands, they are dirty and have germs I need to wash them! (More spitting sounds and shrieking)
Sky: (shaking with laughter and trying desperately not to howl out loud)
It amazes me what kids pick up on and what they completely miss. She understands that washing her hands is important and that licking things spreads germs and yet has no clue that I am not going to accept this as another excuse to get out of her room. In her life at daycare she obviously faces down teachers who insist that germs are a good reason to wash hands so in her mind all you have to do is insist on germs and you get your way.
It is fascinating sometimes to watch how certain specific concepts get through to her clearly like the idea of germs and yet the idea that she can't fool me with these transparent plots (and spitting on herself, no less) escapes her. She needs a lot more life experience to really be able to understand that I want her to go to bed and her gambits are obvious and yet she knows more about transmission of diseases than physicians did not so very long ago. The mixture of scientific training and total cluelessness about human interaction is alternately charming and infuriating.